In a win for some renters who rely on Airbnb to make extra cash, a federal judge has tossed a lawsuit that attempted to crack down on hosts using the short-term rental site without their landlords’ permission.
Aimco, a massive landlord that owns apartment buildings in the Bay Area and throughout the U.S., had tried to hold San Francisco-based Airbnb responsible for policing tenants who violate their leases by listing their apartments on the short-term rental platform. But a federal judge in Los Angeles sided with Airbnb on Friday, giving the startup cause to celebrate as it continues ramping up efforts to draw renters to its platform.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision that ensures Airbnb can continue to support tenant hosts who use our platform to help pay the bills,” Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas wrote in an emailed statement. “The partnerships we have established with landlords have made it clear that home sharing can be a win-win situation for everyone.”
Denver-based Aimco, which owns apartments in San Jose, San Mateo, Redwood City and San Bruno, sued Airbnb last year, arguing Airbnb guests were wreaking havoc in some of its Los Angeles properties. Tenants complained about Airbnb guests bringing noise, damage and safety concerns to the buildings, according to Aimco, and the landlord says it has had to increase security patrols as a result of the influx of unauthorized guests. Aimco leases prohibit subletting its apartments, but the landlord estimates hundreds of tenants use Airbnb to do so anyway.
The landlord asked Airbnb to kick Aimco tenants off its platform, and Airbnb refused, setting the stage for a legal showdown. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled the startup was in the right. She found Airbnb is protected under the Communications Decency Act, a law that shields internet platform from liability for the content they publish. That means Airbnb is not responsible for the actions of tenants who choose to use Airbnb to violate their leases.
“Airbnb hosts — not Airbnb — are responsible for providing the actual listing information,” Gee wrote, granting Airbnb’s motion to dismiss the case. “Airbnb ‘merely provide[s] a framework that could be utilized for proper or improper purposes.’”
Airbnb wins: Court tosses lawsuit brought by major landlord